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Chapter 14 THE MAN OF MEUNG

  • The crowd was caused, not by the expectation of a man to be hanged, but by th_ontemplation of a man who was hanged.
  • The carriage, which had been stopped for a minute, resumed its way, passe_hrough the crowd, threaded the Rue St. Honore, turned into the Rue des Bon_nfants, and stopped before a low door.
  • The door opened; two guards received Bonacieux in their arms from the office_ho supported him. They carried him through an alley, up a flight of stairs, and deposited him in an antechamber.
  • All these movements had been effected mechanically, as far as he wa_oncerned. He had walked as one walks in a dream; he had a glimpse of object_s through a fog. His ears had perceived sounds without comprehending them; h_ight have been executed at that moment without his making a single gesture i_is own defense or uttering a cry to implore mercy.
  • He remained on the bench, with his back leaning against the wall and his hand_anging down, exactly on the spot where the guards placed him.
  • On looking around him, however, as he could perceive no threatening object, a_othing indicated that he ran any real danger, as the bench was comfortabl_overed with a well-stuffed cushion, as the wall was ornamented with _eautiful Cordova leather, and as large red damask curtains, fastened back b_old clasps, floated before the window, he perceived by degrees that his fea_as exaggerated, and he began to turn his head to the right and the left, upward and downward.
  • At this movement, which nobody opposed, he resumed a little courage, an_entured to draw up one leg and then the other. At length, with the help o_is two hands he lifted himself from the bench, and found himself on his feet.
  • At this moment an officer with a pleasant face opened a door, continued t_xchange some words with a person in the next chamber and then came up to th_risoner. "Is your name Bonacieux?" said he.
  • "Yes, Monsieur Officer," stammered the mercer, more dead than alive, "at you_ervice."
  • "Come in," said the officer.
  • And he moved out of the way to let the mercer pass. The latter obeyed withou_eply, and entered the chamber, where he appeared to be expected.
  • It was a large cabinet, close and stifling, with the walls furnished with arm_ffensive and defensive, and in which there was already a fire, although i_as scarcely the end of the month of September. A square table, covered wit_ooks and papers, upon which was unrolled an immense plan of the city of L_ochelle, occupied the center of the room.
  • Standing before the chimney was a man of middle height, of a haughty, prou_ien; with piercing eyes, a large brow, and a thin face, which was made stil_onger by a ROYAL (or IMPERIAL, as it is now called), surmounted by a pair o_ustaches. Although this man was scarcely thirty-six or thirty-seven years o_ge, hair, mustaches, and royal, all began to be gray. This man, except _word, had all the appearance of a soldier; and his buff boots still slightl_overed with dust, indicated that he had been on horseback in the course o_he day.
  • This man was Armand Jean Duplessis, Cardinal de Richelieu; not such as he i_ow represented—broken down like an old man, suffering like a martyr, his bod_ent, his voice failing, buried in a large armchair as in an anticipated tomb; no longer living but by the strength of his genius, and no longer maintainin_he struggle with Europe but by the eternal application of his thoughts—bu_uch as he really was at this period; that is to say, an active and gallan_avalier, already weak of body, but sustained by that moral power which mad_f him one of the most extraordinary men that ever lived, preparing, afte_aving supported the Duc de Nevers in his duchy of Mantua, after having take_imes, Castres, and Uzes, to drive the English from the Isle of Re and la_iege to La Rochelle.
  • At first sight, nothing denoted the cardinal; and it was impossible for thos_ho did not know his face to guess in whose presence they were.
  • The poor mercer remained standing at the door, while the eyes of the personag_e have just described were fixed upon him, and appeared to wish to penetrat_ven into the depths of the past.
  • "Is this that Bonacieux?" asked he, after a moment of silence.
  • "Yes, monseigneur," replied the officer.
  • "That's well. Give me those papers, and leave us."
  • The officer took from the table the papers pointed out, gave them to him wh_sked for them, bowed to the ground, and retired.
  • Bonacieux recognized in these papers his interrogatories of the Bastille. Fro_ime to time the man by the chimney raised his eyes from the writings, an_lunged them like poniards into the heart of the poor mercer.
  • At the end of ten minutes of reading and ten seconds of examination, th_ardinal was satisfied.
  • "That head has never conspired," murmured he, "but it matters not; we wil_ee."
  • "You are accused of high treason," said the cardinal, slowly.
  • "So I have been told already, monseigneur," cried Bonacieux, giving hi_nterrogator the title he had heard the officer give him, "but I swear to yo_hat I know nothing about it."
  • The cardinal repressed a smile.
  • "You have conspired with your wife, with Madame de Chevreuse, and with my Lor_uke of Buckingham."
  • "Indeed, monseigneur," responded the mercer, "I have heard her pronounce al_hose names."
  • "And on what occasion?"
  • "She said that the Cardinal de Richelieu had drawn the Duke of Buckingham t_aris to ruin him and to ruin the queen."
  • "She said that?" cried the cardinal, with violence.
  • "Yes, monseigneur, but I told her she was wrong to talk about such things; an_hat his Eminence was incapable—"
  • "Hold your tongue! You are stupid," replied the cardinal.
  • "That's exactly what my wife said, monseigneur."
  • "Do you know who carried off your wife?"
  • "No, monseigneur."
  • "You have suspicions, nevertheless?"
  • "Yes, monseigneur; but these suspicions appeared to be disagreeable t_onsieur the Commissary, and I no longer have them."
  • "Your wife has escaped. Did you know that?"
  • "No, monseigneur. I learned it since I have been in prison, and that from th_onversation of Monsieur the Commissary—an amiable man."
  • The cardinal repressed another smile.
  • "Then you are ignorant of what has become of your wife since her flight."
  • "Absolutely, monseigneur; but she has most likely returned to the Louvre."
  • "At one o'clock this morning she had not returned."
  • "My God! What can have become of her, then?"
  • "We shall know, be assured. Nothing is concealed from the cardinal; th_ardinal knows everything."
  • "In that case, monseigneur, do you believe the cardinal will be so kind as t_ell me what has become of my wife?"
  • "Perhaps he may; but you must, in the first place, reveal to the cardinal al_ou know of your wife's relations with Madame de Chevreuse."
  • "But, monseigneur, I know nothing about them; I have never seen her."
  • "When you went to fetch your wife from the Louvre, did you always retur_irectly home?"
  • "Scarcely ever; she had business to transact with linen drapers, to whos_ouses I conducted her."
  • "And how many were there of these linen drapers?"
  • "Two, monseigneur."
  • "And where did they live?"
  • "One in Rue de Vaugirard, the other Rue de la Harpe."
  • "Did you go into these houses with her?"
  • "Never, monseigneur; I waited at the door."
  • "And what excuse did she give you for entering all alone?"
  • "She gave me none; she told me to wait, and I waited."
  • "You are a very complacent husband, my dear Monsieur Bonacieux," said th_ardinal.
  • "He calls me his dear Monsieur," said the mercer to himself. "PESTE! Matter_re going all right."
  • "Should you know those doors again?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Do you know the numbers?"
  • "Yes."
  • "What are they?"
  • "No. 25 in the Rue de Vaugirard; 75 in the Rue de la Harpe."
  • "That's well," said the cardinal.
  • At these words he took up a silver bell, and rang it; the officer entered.
  • "Go," said he, in a subdued voice, "and find Rochefort. Tell him to come to m_mmediately, if he has returned."
  • "The count is here," said the officer, "and requests to speak with you_minence instantly."
  • "Let him come in, then!" said the cardinal, quickly.
  • The officer sprang out of the apartment with that alacrity which all th_ervants of the cardinal displayed in obeying him.
  • "To your Eminence!" murmured Bonacieux, rolling his eyes round i_stonishment.
  • Five seconds has scarcely elapsed after the disappearance of the officer, whe_he door opened, and a new personage entered.
  • "It is he!" cried Bonacieux.
  • "He! What he?" asked the cardinal.
  • "The man who abducted my wife."
  • The cardinal rang a second time. The officer reappeared.
  • "Place this man in the care of his guards again, and let him wait till I sen_or him."
  • "No, monseigneur, no, it is not he!" cried Bonacieux; "no, I was deceived.
  • This is quite another man, and does not resemble him at all. Monsieur is, I a_ure, an honest man."
  • "Take away that fool!" said the cardinal.
  • The officer took Bonacieux by the arm, and led him into the antechamber, wher_e found his two guards.
  • The newly introduced personage followed Bonacieux impatiently with his eye_ill he had gone out; and the moment the door closed, "They have seen eac_ther;" said he, approaching the cardinal eagerly.
  • "Who?" asked his Eminence.
  • "He and she."
  • "The queen and the duke?" cried Richelieu.
  • "Yes."
  • "Where?"
  • "At the Louvre."
  • "Are you sure of it?"
  • "Perfectly sure."
  • "Who told you of it?"
  • "Madame de Lannoy, who is devoted to your Eminence, as you know."
  • "Why did she not let me know sooner?"
  • "Whether by chance or mistrust, the queen made Madame de Surgis sleep in he_hamber, and detained her all day."
  • "Well, we are beaten! Now let us try to take our revenge."
  • "I will assist you with all my heart, monseigneur; be assured of that."
  • "How did it come about?"
  • "At half past twelve the queen was with her women—"
  • "Where?"
  • "In her bedchamber—"
  • "Go on."
  • "When someone came and brought her a handkerchief from her laundress."
  • "And then?"
  • "The queen immediately exhibited strong emotion; and despite the rouge wit_hich her face was covered evidently turned pale—"
  • "And then, and then?"
  • "She then arose, and with altered voice, 'Ladies,' said she, 'wait for me te_inutes, I shall soon return.' She then opened the door of her alcove, an_ent out."
  • "Why did not Madame de Lannoy come and inform you instantly?"
  • "Nothing was certain; besides, her Majesty had said, 'Ladies, wait for me,'
  • and she did not dare to disobey the queen."
  • "How long did the queen remain out of the chamber?"
  • "Three-quarters of an hour."
  • "None of her women accompanied her?"
  • "Only Donna Estafania."
  • "Did she afterward return?"
  • "Yes; but only to take a little rosewood casket, with her cipher upon it, an_ent out again immediately."
  • "And when she finally returned, did she bring that casket with her?"
  • "No."
  • "Does Madame de Lannoy know what was in that casket?"
  • "Yes; the diamond studs which his Majesty gave the queen."
  • "And she came back without this casket?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Madame de Lannoy, then, is of opinion that she gave them to Buckingham?"
  • "She is sure of it."
  • "How can she be so?"
  • "In the course of the day Madame de Lannoy, in her quality of tire-woman o_he queen, looked for this casket, appeared uneasy at not finding it, and a_ength asked information of the queen."
  • "And then the queen?"
  • "The queen became exceedingly red, and replied that having in the evenin_roken one of those studs, she had sent it to her goldsmith to be repaired."
  • "He must be called upon, and so ascertain if the thing be true or not."
  • "I have just been with him."
  • "And the goldsmith?"
  • "The goldsmith has heard nothing of it."
  • "Well, well! Rochefort, all is not lost; and perhaps—perhaps everything is fo_he best."
  • "The fact is that I do not doubt your Eminence's genius—"
  • "Will repair the blunders of his agent—is that it?"
  • "That is exactly what I was going to say, if your Eminence had let me finis_y sentence."
  • "Meanwhile, do you know where the Duchesse de Chevreuse and the Duke o_uckingham are now concealed?"
  • "No, monseigneur; my people could tell me nothing on that head."
  • "But I know."
  • "You, monseigneur?"
  • "Yes; or at least I guess. They were, one in the Rue de Vaugirard, No. 25; th_ther in the Rue de la Harpe, No. 75."
  • "Does your Eminence command that they both be instantly arrested?"
  • "It will be too late; they will be gone."
  • "But still, we can make sure that they are so."
  • "Take ten men of my Guardsmen, and search the two houses thoroughly."
  • "Instantly, monseigneur." And Rochefort went hastily out of the apartment.
  • The cardinal being left alone, reflected for an instant and then rang the bel_ third time. The same officer appeared.
  • "Bring the prisoner in again," said the cardinal.
  • M. Bonacieux was introduced afresh, and upon a sign from the cardinal, th_fficer retired.
  • "You have deceived me!" said the cardinal, sternly.
  • "I," cried Bonacieux, "I deceive your Eminence!"
  • "Your wife, in going to Rue de Vaugirard and Rue de la Harpe, did not go t_ind linen drapers."
  • "Then why did she go, just God?"
  • "She went to meet the Duchesse de Chevreuse and the Duke of Buckingham."
  • "Yes," cried Bonacieux, recalling all his remembrances of the circumstances,
  • "yes, that's it. Your Eminence is right. I told my wife several times that i_as surprising that linen drapers should live in such houses as those, i_ouses that had no signs; but she always laughed at me. Ah, monseigneur!"
  • continued Bonacieux, throwing himself at his Eminence's feet, "ah, how trul_ou are the cardinal, the great cardinal, the man of genius whom all the worl_everes!"
  • The cardinal, however contemptible might be the triumph gained over so vulga_ being as Bonacieux, did not the less enjoy it for an instant; then, almos_mmediately, as if a fresh thought has occurred, a smile played upon his lips, and he said, offering his hand to the mercer, "Rise, my friend, you are _orthy man."
  • "The cardinal has touched me with his hand! I have touched the hand of th_reat man!" cried Bonacieux. "The great man has called me his friend!"
  • "Yes, my friend, yes," said the cardinal, with that paternal tone which h_ometimes knew how to assume, but which deceived none who knew him; "and a_ou have been unjustly suspected, well, you must be indemnified. Here, tak_his purse of a hundred pistoles, and pardon me."
  • "I pardon you, monseigneur!" said Bonacieux, hesitating to take the purse, fearing, doubtless, that this pretended gift was but a pleasantry. "But yo_re able to have me arrested, you are able to have me tortured, you are abl_o have me hanged; you are the master, and I could not have the least word t_ay. Pardon you, monseigneur! You cannot mean that!"
  • "Ah, my dear Monsieur Bonacieux, you are generous in this matter. I see it an_ thank you for it. Thus, then, you will take this bag, and you will go awa_ithout being too malcontent."
  • "I go away enchanted."
  • "Farewell, then, or rather, AU REVOIR!"
  • And the cardinal made him a sign with his hand, to which Bonacieux replied b_owing to the ground. He then went out backward, and when he was in th_ntechamber the cardinal heard him, in his enthusiasm, crying aloud, "Lon_ife to the Monseigneur! Long life to his Eminence! Long life to the grea_ardinal!" The cardinal listened with a smile to this vociferous manifestatio_f the feelings of M. Bonacieux; and then, when Bonacieux's cries were n_onger audible, "Good!" said he, "that man would henceforward lay down hi_ife for me." And the cardinal began to examine with the greatest attentio_he map of La Rochelle, which, as we have said, lay open on the desk, tracin_ith a pencil the line in which the famous dyke was to pass which, eightee_onths later, shut up the port of the besieged city. As he was in the deepes_f his strategic meditations, the door opened, and Rochefort returned.
  • "Well?" said the cardinal, eagerly, rising with a promptitude which proved th_egree of importance he attached to the commission with which he had charge_he count.
  • "Well," said the latter, "a young woman of about twenty-six or twenty-eigh_ears of age, and a man of from thirty-five to forty, have indeed lodged a_he two houses pointed out by your Eminence; but the woman left last night, and the man this morning."
  • "It was they!" cried the cardinal, looking at the clock; "and now it is to_ate to have them pursued. The duchess is at Tours, and the duke at Boulogne.
  • It is in London they must be found."
  • "What are your Eminence's orders?"
  • "Not a word of what has passed. Let the queen remain in perfect security; le_er be ignorant that we know her secret. Let her believe that we are in searc_f some conspiracy or other. Send me the keeper of the seals, Seguier."
  • "And that man, what has your Eminence done with him?"
  • "What man?" asked the cardinal.
  • "That Bonacieux."
  • "I have done with him all that could be done. I have made him a spy upon hi_ife."
  • The Comte de Rochefort bowed like a man who acknowledges the superiority o_he master as great, and retired.
  • Left alone, the cardinal seated himself again and wrote a letter, which h_ecured with his special seal. Then he rang. The officer entered for th_ourth time.
  • "Tell Vitray to come to me," said he, "and tell him to get ready for _ourney."
  • An instant after, the man he asked for was before him, booted and spurred.
  • "Vitray," said he, "you will go with all speed to London. You must not stop a_nstant on the way. You will deliver this letter to Milady. Here is an orde_or two hundred pistoles; call upon my treasurer and get the money. You shal_ave as much again if you are back within six days, and have executed you_ommission well."
  • The messenger, without replying a single word, bowed, took the letter, wit_he order for the two hundred pistoles, and retired.
  • Here is what the letter contained:
  • MILADY, Be at the first ball at which the Duke of Buckingham shall be present.
  • He will wear on his doublet twelve diamond studs; get as near to him as yo_an, and cut off two.
  • As soon as these studs shall be in your possession, inform me.